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Sermon in the Centenary Chapel, The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Nuku’alofa, Tonga Sunday August 6, 2017

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC: Sermon in the Centenary Chapel, The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Nuku’alofa, Tonga Sunday August 6, 2017 “The dawn from on high will break upon us” Text: Luke 1: 76-79

06 August 2017

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC:

Sermon in the Centenary Chapel, The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Nuku’alofa, Tonga

Sunday August 6, 2017

“The dawn from on high will break upon us”

Text: Luke 1: 76-79

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Your Majesty, Honourable Prime Minister, President and former President of the Church,

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ here in Tonga,

It is such a privilege and blessing to be invited to visit and to be with you these days, and to worship God together with you this morning.

You are the first. You are the first among all the member churches of the World Council of Churches around the world to greet the dawn of every new day and to praise God. Therefore, you are also the first to start this Sunday of worship to the one who is risen from the death, Jesus Christ, who is the light that can shine for all who are in darkness and who can lead our feet on the way of peace. You are the first to experience that God’s grace, “the tender mercy of our God” is new every morning. In all the worries, challenges, and sin in the life we experience in this world, there is a dawn from on high that is breaking upon us.

The Gospel is a word of promise. It is a word that helps us to see that the good news of Jesus Christ directs our minds and our feet towards the day, the day of God, that is always breaking into our world.

The song of Zechariah, he is praising God for the son he will receive, who became John the Baptist, who is sent to prepare the way for the one who can bring salvation from our sins and bring light to all. The faith we share in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as we state it in the basis of the World Council of Churches, is the treasure from the past that give us direction for everything we are together as Churches. This is also what guides us as we see our common journey into the future as a pilgrimage of justice and peace.

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We are not called to be the agents of apocalyptic  scenarios, to nurture fear, or to promote fatalism. We are called to be the agents of faith that expresses itself in accounts of hope. Our hope is that God brings the dawn from on high. We cannot bring forward the daybreak ourselves. But we can open our curtains and our eyes and live in the new opportunities God gives us every day. In the same way, we trust in God’s promises and God’s opportunities for us. We are not looking to the future as darkness and night, as reason to despair and give up the joy and meaning of life. We are looking to the future as the day of God, as the eternal life that has started here.

Thus, we can become participants and active pilgrims who are agents of change towards justice and peace wherever we are and whoever we are. The hope we share gives us courage to start every day as a chance to be a sign of hope for others. One of the strongest signs of hope I have seen as I have visited Tonga the last days, was how the young people in your churches have committed themselves to explore how they can work together locally and in this region for justice and peace.  They want themselves to show that their Christian faith can make a positive difference for many who struggle with their lives in their communities.

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Creation is an expression of this grace in itself. God gives us every day new opportunities, new possibilities to participate in the day of God, to do the will of God, to be among those who bring light into the life of the others, who take care of God’s creation, who share the resources and the blessings we have received from God.

You Christian sisters and brothers here in the Pacific region have contributed a lot to the higher attention and sensitivity in the World Council of Churches to how care for God’s creation is a genuine part of our Christian faith and life. You are more than many others knowing what is true for all of us: We depend on God’s nature every day for our life, for air, water, food. You have also helped us to see that we live in a time when God’s creation is suffering, and that the land you live on, is under threats from the rising sea level due to global warming. You alerted us decades ago, and now the whole world experiences climate changes and its severe effects. I have seen in your island where the sea has permeated into the land and made it inhabitable in some places.

We are given many clear words in the Holy Bible how we can live in this world so that God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – as we pray together every day. This is summarized in the double great commandment; to love God with all our heart, and soul, and will – and to love our neighbour as ourselves. To understand what that means in our time, I think we have to explain it with a third dimension: We shall love God, God’s creation, and our neighbour as ourselves. How we can love God and neglect, ignore, or even destroy God’s creation? How can we love our neighbour if we make the life of others in this world impossible due to our destructive acts towards nature, through pollutions and emissions that make it so hard for others today and the generations to come?

As I was on my morning tour in the dawn of this day along the shores of Nuku’alofa, up to the Royal Palace, I was thanking God for this beautiful morning as you only can experience it here at Tonga. You live in the great ocean, with all its resources, on a land that bears fruit the whole year, and with a beauty of God’s creation that I never will forget. On my way I also passed the signposts that show the way to escape from the shores in case of tsunamis or cyclones. Nature has many dimensions. We need to live with it together, and seek the balances with nature, and not let the commercial interests or political powers exploit the resources and disturb the balances needed for us to live here.

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To be a fellowship of hope, focused on the possibilities of every new day, is our calling. That does not mean that we ignore or neglect the problems of the world or our own mistakes or sins. To the contrary: The Christian faith is always our trust in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. The cross shows us how our saviour was willing to go into all kinds of darkness of injustice and sin, even death, for our sake and to save us from the power of sin and death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows us that there is no darkness and no experience of evil where there can be no hope of new life. Our Christian faith is very realistic as it gives as the courage to hope, to hope for changes today and tomorrow that can be for the better, for life, for joy.

As we serve God in our different roles and capacities in life, in the different places we live and work, we are together sharing this deep meaning of life of being the witnesses together of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. He is the light, as he was yesterday, as he is today and will be the light of tomorrow; the dawn from on high that will break upon us.

Let us continue the journey of faith together, serving God and the world together. This is what it means to be the World Council of Churches together. This is what it means to follow Christ on the way of peace. So let us do so.

May God bless your nation, your leaders, and all your people! May God bless your church!

Amen.